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Attention-Deficit Disorder And How It Affects Our Children Today

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What is Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)? ADD is often referred to as "hyperactivity," and is characterized by difficulties that interfere with effective task-oriented behavior in children, particularly impulsivity, excessive or exaggerated motor activity such as aimless or haphazard running or fidgeting, and difficulties in sustaining attention. ADD is one of the most commonly diagnosed behavioral disorders of childhood. The disorder is estimated to affect between 3 to 7 out of every 100 school-aged children (American Psychiatric Association 2000).

The core symptoms of ADD are developmentally inappropriate levels of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. These problems are persistent and usually cause difficulties in one or more major life areas: home, school, work, or social relationships. Not all children and youth have the same type of ADD. Some may be hyperactive, while others may be under-active. Some may have great problems with attention, while others may be mildly inattentive, but overly impulsive. Still others may have significant problems in all three areas (attention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity). Thus, there are three subtypes of ADD: 1) predominantly inattentive type, 2) predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type, and 3) combined type (inattention, hyperactivity-impulsivity). With ADD, these behaviors occur far more than occasionally. They are the rule and not the expectation.

ADD is a very complex, neurobiochemical disorder. Researchers do not know ADD's exact causes, as in the case with many mental and physical health conditions. In people with the disorder, studies show that certain brain areas have less activity and blood flow and that certain brain structures are slightly smaller. These differences in brain activity and structure are mainly evident in the prefrontal cortex, the basal ganglia, and the cerebellum (Castellanos & Swanson, 2002). These areas are known to help us inhibit behavior, sustain attention, and control mood. There is also strong evidence to suggest that certain chemicals in the brainÐ'--called neurotransmittersÐ'--play a large role in ADD type behaviors. Neurotransmitters help brain cells communicate with each other. The neurotransmitter that seems to be the most involved with ADD is called dopamine, which is widely used throughout the brain. Scientists have discovered a genetic basis for part of the dopamine problem that exists in some individuals with ADD. They also think that the neurotransmitter called norepinphrine is involved to some extent.

ADD is considered a mental health disorder. Only a licensed professional, such as a pediatrician, psychologist, neurologist, psychiatrist, or clinical social worker, can make the diagnosis

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